Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
O you who believe, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, God is with the patient. (Chapter 2: Verse 153)
Allah advices you to seek help through patience and prayer. Seek help for what, you may ask? For everything that God asks you to do, and for everything life may throw at you. You naturally ask Allah for help and support every time you pray; But what about patience? What is the relevance of patience? To be patient is to overcome the feelings of anxiety, fear and despair over life’s troubles. Patience can take several forms, and can be practiced at many levels based on how close your relationship with God is.
Take the example of Ali ibn Abi Taleb (may God be pleased with him) who was asked about the right of a neighbour. He answered: “You do know that you are not supposed to harm your neighbour”. The person said: “yes, I know”. Ali continued: “and you have to be patient when your neighbour harms you.” Here, you are asked to practice two levels of patience. One is to refrain from causing your neighbours any harm, such as turning the volume up even if you like to listen to the radio that way. But, you are also asked to be patient if your neighbour’s radio is too high. One of the prophet’s neighbors –an old pagan woman- went out of her way to aggravate him by throwing garbage in his way every single day. One day, when he walked out of his home there was no garbage. He, peace be upon him, asked about his neighbor and learned that she was sick. The Prophet went to visit her and offer her any assistance she might need. The old woman was humbled and ashamed of her actions over the years. By seeing the example of the compassion and patience of Prophet Muhammad, she realized that Islam is the true religion.
Patience is the tool that helps you fulfil God’s commands, and stay away from that which God has forbidden. God commandments usually revolve around prohibiting things you desire, and asking you to do things you may feel difficult. Both require patience from you initially; however, the more you adhere to God’s teachings, the more comfortable you become practicing them. A righteous person used to supplicate: “O Allah, I fear that You will not reward me for obedience and worship anymore because I have started to desire and long to do them. Glory to You my Lord, You have commanded us to go against our desires, and my desire is to be with you in worship.”
When the time for prayers came, the Prophet used to say to Bilal –the companion who performed the call for prayer-: “Comfort us with it, O Bilal!” Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his companions looked forward to prayers as a way to be in God’s company, and as a tool to unburden them from life’s trouble. It was an act of relief and tranquillity. Contrast that to some of us today who consider prayer a burden that has to be done in order to be crossed of the ‘to do list’ of the day. Do you feel relieved with prayer, or relieved from it?
“Indeed, God is with the patient” is an invitation for you to face the difficulties of life in the company of your Lord. Take the example of a child being bullied in a playground. He may feel overwhelmed and overpowered. But when he sees his dad coming from a distance, he feels strong, and suddenly stands up for himself against all the bigger kids that are bothering him. If a child feels invincible in the company of his father and does not worry about anything, then what about a person in the company of his or her Lord? When you are in God’s company, you feel strong, safe and tranquil under all circumstances.
Life’s calamities and troubles can only get to you and cause you to panic in fear when you are far from Allah. Satan does not have the courage to harass those in God’s company. Satan is sinister and shifty; he does not pick a fight with God, nor does he go after those in the God’s company; rather, he awaits a chance when you distance yourself from Allah. At that moment, he goes after you to drag you deeper into sin. When you remember your Lord, he retreats back and waits for another chance. Always be in remembrance of God, so satan does not find a way into your life. God narrates satan’s words in the Quran:
Iblis said, ‘I swear by Your might! I will tempt all, Except Your servants among them, endowed with sincerity in faith and worship (38:82-83)
You may come to love patience because Allah is with those who are patient. God says in a sacred narration: 'O son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.' Man will answer: 'How can I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!' God will say: 'Didn’t you know that my servant so and so was sick and you did not visit him. Had you visited him, you would have found Me with him."
A righteous woman once said: “Dear God! I feel guilty praying for my well-being, because I do not want to lose your company during my sickness.” It is this kind of love and longing to be with the Lord that makes you patient over hardship and life’s troubles.
“O you who believe, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, God is with the patient.” is one of the great verses that gives you solace in the hour of need, and gives you strength regardless of the difficulties facing you because as long as you are patient, Allah is right beside you in your hardship.